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It doesn’t matter how you got to this point, all that matters now is that yes, you know you need a website. But where to start? How’s an institution to survive in a world that demands everyone have a fancy digital face? You’ve got two options:

A. DIY

A professional website is not the right solution for everyone.

Sometimes in the discovery phase of a new project, we encounter a business owner with a little technical savvy who wants a new website. We always ask them first if they’d rather DIY with a little outside help, or go the professional route.

Of course, as with amateur plumbing or electrical work, sometimes you might just end up in an unholy mess. If that happens, don’t beat yourself up!  But do call in a pro once you realize what’s gone wrong, to save on unnecessary frustration and project downtime.

Let’s do this!

Step 1: Register your domain

This is your street address for the internet – and as with real estate IRL, where your site is located can either help or hurt your project. Spend some time brainstorming and checking what social media URLs are available before you buy. The best name will be short, memorable, and available on all the major social media services.

Step 2: Pick your hosting

This is the foundation for the website on your internet address. Picking the right host will equip you with right tools for your project. Be smart and get some seriously professional nerds on your side, like hacker man here. Since we’re going with WordPress (the most popular open-source CMS on the internet), we strongly recommend fellow Austin locals WP Engine.

Not only are they local (a huge help in the increasingly outsourced world of tech, since you can always understand what WP Engine’s customer support agents are saying when you call in), their platform is made specifically for WordPress. Better yet, they’re offering a free month of premium or Enterprise hosting for new customers.

Step 3: Install your theme

There are two approaches to themes in WordPress, and which one you should pick depends on what you want your site to do.

Builder Themes provide you the tools to make a truly custom website from scratch, with simple controls to add text, images, buttons, backgrounds, and many more basic building blocks including social media follows, contact forms, and more. We love building with Divi!

Classic Themes provide decor and styling for your website, and the broad-strokes layout of your content. Be sure to pick a visual style that represents the mood of your project.

Some themes come with widget areas and special features, so read the documentation to learn how to set up your framework correctly.

Step 4: Add pages/posts

These are the containers for your content. Think of each page as an important section on your site. Do you want to introduce yourself, show off your products, publish a blog and allow customers to contact you? Then set up pages for About, Shop, Blog, and Contact.

Step 5: Set up your navigation

This is important – it’s all well and good to create fancy containers and an encyclopedia of content, but none of that matters if your audience can’t find or navigate to it! Create a new menu with your most important pages at the top level.

Step 6: Add copy and graphics to the pages

At last, you are to the point of creating your website where you actually add the information you want to publish to the pages created earlier. Unless your site focuses on research or longform content, we’re not looking for a dissertation here – remember, brevity is the soul of wit.

Step 7: Install specialty plug-ins

If you need your website to do something it doesn’t do out of the box, you’ll need to install and configure specialty plugins. The sky’s the limit here, but be sure to make regular backups whenever you make a major change to the site software. Sometimes plugins will create conflicts and crash the whole WordPress installation (meaning your entire domain)… if you can’t restore from a recent backup, you’ll have to call in a pro or start from scratch.

Step 8: Configure your settings

Name your site. Give it a tagline that tells your user what to expect. Allow search engines to index your site. Click through each section in Settings. Read your theme and plugin documentation to make sure you’ve made all the necessary choices.

Step 9: Test everything

DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. If there’s any advice I have to stress to a beginner, it’s that testing is worth your time. Navigate through every page, click on every link, search for broken content or things that don’t work. Better yet, ask a friend to do the same thing – and try things out BEFORE you launch instead of waiting for after! By testing thoroughly in advance, you will save yourself an avalanche of customer complaints… or, worse yet, users that give up before you make the sale/tell your story. Here are a few specific tests I like to run pre-launch to make sure everything is ship-shape:

Step 10: Set up your search listing

Almost there! You’re not done creating your website until the search engines know it exists. Google Search Console is your friend.

Step 11: Launch

THAT’S IT. You’re done. You survived. Now you can tell everyone – share the news (and the link) on social media, and start your marketing campaigns. Congratulations. Now go have a taco, you earned it!

Or, if you don’t have the time to do all that and you just want an awesome website that works…

B. Hire A Professional

If the thought of DIY makes you want to R-U-N to the nearest spa, hire a pro.

We’ve been building beautiful websites that solve complex communications challenges since 1998. 

Need a hand making big changes to your website, or digital skills training for your staff? Drop us a line. 

THE END

 

All images courtesy of Giphy.